What's Mine is Mine

"What’s mine is mine and what’s your is yours."  In Pirkei Avot 5:10, we learn that this is the “average” temperament, which is compared to 3 others: uneducated, pious, and wicked.  In a side note, the sages mention that some refer to this average live and let live attitude as that same one adopted by the residents of Sodom, a city destroyed for its immorality.  So what gives?  Is live and let live average or wicked?  If it is wicked, what is so bad about it?

Read More

Processing Light and Dark

Reading about the recent school massacre in Parkland, Florida is scary and heartbreaking.  As a school professional, there is nothing more important than keeping our children healthy and safe - even learning, which is our reason for existing, is a distant second.  There is no easy way to understand or process events like this; the best we can do is recognize and validate our emotional reactions, and take time to mourn.

Read More

Asking Questions

One of the reasons I love engaging with Jewish texts is that they can spark so many questions.  If you turn a text this way and that way, you will find all sorts of places to plug in and inquire, flexing the muscles of creativity, critical thinking, and communication.  When we study text, we learn to operate in parallel at both surface and deep levels of reading, and to mine words and thoughts for relevance and meaning.  

Read More

JDAIM

Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month
February is Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), and Gesher is proud to be part of a community that is leading the way nationally in this area with the support, guidance, and investment of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.  Research in education over the past several decades offers compelling evidence that inclusion in schools leads to positive academic and social-emotional outcomes for both students with disabilities and their general education peers.  The techniques and tools that teachers use in order to differentiate and plan in these settings are the very same ones that are recommended as best practices in general education.

Read More

Showing Up

Sometimes it is a challenge to know what to say or how to behave when we would like to help a friend who is going through a hard time.  Our empathy and sympathy are engaged, and we may even hurt alongside them or on their behalf, yet still we know we can’t truly understand just what they are going through.  Being present even though you are not sure what is needed in such times is such a crucial act of kindness, and even if you are concerned about “getting it wrong” in some way, the key move is just to be there.

Read More

Hesed (Loving-Kindness)

One of the core values of the modern American Jewish movements is the idea that we are commanded to perform acts of Hesed (loving-kindness).  Hesed as a concept doesn’t translate perfectly into English, but generally it includes pious acts that express love of the divine and love of other human beings.  We believe that the world is filled with imperfection, and that through acts of Hesed we can make it a better place.

Read More

A place at the table

Over the past several years, the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington adopted an outstanding philosophy and set of practices about how to be an inclusive community.  Among other items, it means that we respect and include individuals with disabilities, and we do everything we can to make sure that our celebrations, events, and learning are thoughtfully designed to reach as many people as possible.  This is absolutely a Jewish value, and it is one that Gesher JDS proudly accepts and enacts.

Read More

The Power of Habit

The power of habit leaves the impact of goals in the dust.  If you own a smartphone, there are a number of apps taking advantage of this important insight into human behavior.  There are apps that track your activity and movement, how you drink or eat, how much time you spend on various parts of your day, just to name a few examples.  What the creators and users of these apps intuit is that it one thing to say you are going to lose weight in the new year, and it is another to hold yourself accountable for actually altering your behavior.

Read More

Finding Favor

I’ve celebrated Chanukah more than a few times, but I never sat down and looked closely at the Hebrew word חנוכה, which we typically translate as dedication or consecration.  It’s fascinating!  First, it is constructed from the exact same root letters as the Hebrew word for education (Chinuch).  It also can be linked to the Hebrew word חן, which means grace, favor, or beauty.

Read More

Choices

When we turn our attention to removing the stumbling blocks that we place in our own paths, we are vastly improving our chances of growing and learning.  This is part of what we do in our social-emotional curriculum at Gesher.  We help children consider their choices, and help them understand the impact those choices have on their experiences.

Read More

The Wisdom to Learn

Just think — what would be required for you to approach every single interpersonal interaction from the perspective of a learner?  Is that even possible?  The value placed on wisdom in the Rabbinic worldview is extremely high.  Interestingly, the Rabbinic insight into the nature of wisdom was that it requires a healthy does of humility — if you are going to learn, you will at some point have to acknowledge what you don’t know.

Read More

Gratitude - Hakarat HaTov

One of the amazing gifts of spending each and every day in a Jewish educational environment for both students and educators is that we start every day with moments of mindfulness.  Sometimes when we say the word “prayer" that can feel intimidating for those who are less fluent in Hebrew or less comfortable with the technical aspects of Judaism.  Reframing this practice as sacred time set aside for introspection, gratitude, and praise makes it accessible for anyone, no matter their age or background, and each of us can find a way to connect to these emotions.

Read More

Know where you are going

A quote from Pirkei Avot opens a conversation about the dual physical/spiritual nature of humanity, as well as questions about mortality and when we should talk about it with children.

Read More

Links in the chain

I often find myself in the position of bringing a big-picture perspective to decisions, conflicts, and a variety of problem-solving processes and scenarios.  That is part of leadership, and I tend to enjoy taking a wide view more than getting lost in the details.  The details matter, though, and if they are not taken into account, then big-picture perspective can end up in the clouds, floating far from practical reality.  In this, as in many things, striking a healthy balance is crucial, and that balance shifts with each issue and conversation.  People are endlessly fascinating.

Read More

Sage Advice

Growing in my capacity to seek and hear counsel from multiple sources has been transformative in both my life and my career.  The idea that each of us can learn from just about anyone is one of my most deeply held core beliefs.  I learn every day from our children at school, and from my outstanding colleagues on the faculty and staff, and from my own family members.  I learn weekly from conversations with our Gesher lay leaders and Gesher parents, and from communal professionals with whom I am privileged to collaborate regularly.

Read More

Teach your children well

The Rabbinic tradition makes a point of thinking carefully about education and pedagogy.  These thinkers knew that while Judaism had its roots in experiential practices including sacrifices, ritual purification, and the sanctification of time, the rabbinic age (after the destruction of the temple) would necessarily rely increasingly on the transmission of knowledge from generation to generation with words.  One of the most wonderful things about being a Jewish educator in the modern world is that research in the field of education regularly provides evidence that supports insights these early rabbinic educators had thousands of years ago.


Read More

What's Torah without Derech Eretz?

I believe that living meaningfully means, among other things, engaging in relationships.  This is something that every human has the capacity for, though each of us engages differently and we all derive meaning in unique ways.  Every human society has norms for right behavior in relationships, and has mechanisms for enforcing those norms and consequences for infractions.

Read More

Habits of the heart

Ask any Gesher educator about the role of routines in their classroom, and you will undoubtedly hear how powerfully important it is for children to know what to expect, particularly as they transition into or out of different spaces or times during the day.  Setting up rituals, routines, habits, and clear expectations is one of the core building blocks of outstanding education--it allows children to feel comfortable enough to truly explore and learn, knowing that they safely bounded at the edges of their daily experiences.  It communicates respect and trust, helps to create cohorts and communities, and offers a reliable anchor for learning and growth. 

Read More

Word Obsessed

Jewish tradition is clinically obsessed with words.  I’m no expert in the DSM-V diagnosis of obsessive behavior, but I’m pretty confident that our 24 books of TaNaKH, our 63 tractates of Mishnah, and our 2,711 pages of Talmud meet the requirements.  If those are not enough, we also have a couple of thousand years worth of commentary layered on top of those foundational texts, not to mention translations into multiple languages.

Read More

Trust, Learning, and Friendship

Mishnah 1:6 of Pirkei Avot contains another of the most familiar quotes used in Jewish education:
 
.יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן פְּרַחְיָה אוֹמֵר, עֲשֵׂה לְךָ רַב, וּקְנֵה לְךָ חָבֵר, וֶהֱוֵי דָן אֶת כָּל הָאָדָם לְכַף זְכוּת
 
Yehoshua ben Perachia says, "Make for yourself a mentor, acquire for yourself a friend and judge every person as meritorious."
Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) 1:6
A close reading of this text raises many interesting questions, and one of my favorite is to think about the relationship between the three phrases - how exactly are finding a teacher, acquiring (buying) yourself a friend, and giving others the benefit of the doubt connected?


Read More
search login